Tánaiste to address Dáil on whistleblower controversy

Martin tells Dáil Maurice McCabe takes issue with Fitzgerald’s comments on RTÉ radio

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin tells Dáil Maurice McCabe takes issue with Fitzgerald’s comments on RTÉ radio. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is to make a statement to the Dáil this evening and answer questions about her knowledge of a legal strategy to undermine the credibility of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

No accusation of serious crime was made against Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins commission, the Garda sergeant has insisted, in contradiction of remarks by the Tánaiste on radio on Tuesday, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the House that on RTÉ radio News at One, Ms Fitzgerald said she received an email about a criminal charge against Mr McCabe that had been raised at the tribunal on the basis that it had not been properly investigated.

“Just minutes before I came in here I took a phone call from Maurice McCabe and he is adamant that such an issue was never made at the O’Higgins commission,” Mr Martin.

“He is taking very serious issue with the remarks of the Tánaiste.”

The Fianna Fail leader said: “I’m not in a position to adjudicate but it raises more questions than it answers”.

The issue was raised after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in the Dáil last week Ms Fitzgerald had not been aware until it came into the public domain in 2016 that the legal strategy of the Garda at the O’Higgins commission was to question the motivation and credibility of Sgt McCabe.

“You said she became aware in 2016,” Mr Martin said to the Taoiseach.

“The Dáil was misled. You were misled by the Tanaiste.”

He said Labour TD Alan Kelly did not get straight answers when he first raised the issue.

Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher stressed there was a difference between misinforming the House and deliberately misleading.

The Taoiseach said: “I don’t have first-hand knowledge”.

He said he was “replying based on briefings from other department and Ministers. And these are matters before a tribunal established by this House.”

He said the Tánaiste and the Department of Justice “had no hand, act or part in the legal strategy, did not know about it until after it had happened, did not know beforehand” and could not have influenced it after the fact.

He said that after his reply to the House he received a new email that he saw at 11.30pm last night.

Mr Varadkar said it was an email between two Department of Justice officials in which one official relates a third party conversation and the email concludes that the Attorney General and the Minister had no function in this.

Acquiescence

Mr Martin said “given the sensitivity of this issue it is not credible that the Tánaiste did not read the email or having read it, did not ask questions”.

Mr Martin asked who was the official who sent the email to the Tánaiste?

“By her acquiescence and incuriosity the Government remains complicit in this sordid affair.”

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said an email had “miraculously re-appeared after two years”.

This was the email he said Ms Fitzgerald had received in 2015 but did not recall it.

He said serious criminal complaints being made against Sgt Maurice McCabe that had not been investigated and the Minister could not remember reading that email. He said this was not credible.

Mr Doherty said it was not the department but Katie Hannon of RTÉ and Mick Clifford who put the information into the public domain.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said the Tánaiste became aware of the strategy only around the time it came into the public domain.

It was designed to discredit Garda McCabe and pervert the course of justice, he said.

Any Minister receiving such an email that was so “explosive” and not to respond is not credible,that an allegation of a serious crime was part of a legal strategy but she still did nothing, he said.

Mr Howlin said the fact that an official informed her meant she was expected to take action.

Mr Varadkar said Ministers all the time receive information emails and not all emails are for action and when an email sets out that a Minister has no function then she has no role.